Archive | June 2011

A Cosy Mystery for a Winter Afternoon – Aunt Dimity Digs In

Aunt Dimity Digs In by Nancy Atherton turned out to be a surprisingly good read. It was, as the jacket promised, a cosy mystery that was perfect for reading on a wintery Sunday afternoon.

The story is set in Finch, a village in the English Cotswalds, peopled with a cast of good natured, but slightly eccentric characters including the usual village gossip, publican and vicar. Lori, the main protagonist, has been called upon to help find out who burgled a rare pamphlet from the vicarage, while at the same time, helping to save the Harvest Festival. The entire event is threatened due to an archaeological dig that requires the use of the one of the main venues. She is helped by the mysterious and supernatural Aunt Dimity, of whom I won’t reveal any more – I’d hate to spoil the story for anyone who might wish to read it.

There was a nice parallel between the archaeology team’s efforts to dig up the Roman past of Finch, and Lori’s need to dig up the past of each character. One by one each character’s past was gradually revealed, and warring parties found they had much more in common than they originally thought.

This was a light, entertaining read with a positive message about forgiveness and understanding. For a moment there, I even felt challenged to get a little more involved with my local community – a key theme of the book being about the folly of disconnecting from the people and the world around you.

Reminding me of Enid Blyton, food was featured throughout the book and a recipe for the oft-mentioned lemon bars was even included at the end. You can  find it here.

Since my first visit to the library was a success, I decided to try my luck again yesterday morning. This time, I decided to explore the ‘B’ section.

I walked on and on, past authors with names like Binchy, Brown, Brooks, Bova and Bradford, feeling slightly discouraged.  But finally, something jumped out.

A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book called to me from the shelves. Years ago, I read ‘Possession’ by the same author, and loved it, so I’m optimistic about this one. It’s unlikely to be a light read, however. The paperback version I have is the size of a house brick, and judging by her last book it will be full of fairly dense, literary language.

The school holidays officially began today – a good time to begin something a little more challenging.

Choosing a Good Book

Walking into a library for the first time in at least 5 years was a somewhat overwhelming experience.

I wanted to borrow a book – but there were so many to choose from. Where to start?

Its not that I’ve neglected reading over the past 5 years – its just I’ve been buying all my books. In particular, I’ve been downloading plenty of e-books. I realise, however, that this has narrowed my choices. At first I would download all the books in a series, or by a favourite author. Once I’d exhausted those options I found myself relying on the recommendations Amazon generates for me based on my previous choices. I wouldn’t rely on them alone, I’d look at reviews to help my selection – and so far haven’t been disappointed, but even so, most of the books I read come from a computer generated list.

There is more to the world of books than the titles available in the Amazon bookstore, so I looked forward to my trip to the library, but once there the choice was paralysing. Without a list of recommendations, either from friends or Amazon, I had no idea how to go about selecting a book. I seemed to have forgotten that fairly basic skill.

I was tempted to fall back on the other sources I sometimes use: Book club lists can easily be found online and offer a good selection of fairly worthy titles. Lists of prize winners and nominees are also a good source of recommendations. But for me, the idea of going to the library with a list would somehow detract from the experience. Again, my choice would be limited – this time to worthy, quality literature, which isn’t a bad thing, but there are a lot of great books that never make those lists.

In the end, I decided to simply start at the letter A and see what jumped out at me.

This is when I discovered the importance of a book’s spine and title. They are the very first things you notice when wandering the shelves of a library. I discovered I was attracted to certain font types, and would pass by others. Once a font attracted me, I would read the title, and only then, if it sparked my curiosity, would I pull it from the shelves.

What jumped out at me today was the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. The titles amused me. I was tempted to borrow Aunt Dimity, Vampire Hunter but settled on the earliest novel of the series the library had on its shelves: Aunt Dimity Digs In.

I have no idea what these books will be like, but I suspect they won’t have been nominated for any prizes. A quick search on the net saw them described as “Cozy Mysteries”. I’m not sure if I even enjoy “cozy mysteries”. I did, however, enjoy the first couple of pages that I read – so I’m optimistic about the series.

The other book I borrowed was “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman. I follow @neilhimself on Twitter, but have never read any of his books. This was the only title the library had on the shelves, and is apparently his first novel. It seemed like a good place to start.

Its been such a long time since I’ve read a book without any prior research. And that’s the wonderful thing about libraries. They are full of hidden treasures – and trash. It doesn’t matter if I accidently found myself with a book I don’t like – I may waste  time finding that out, but at least I haven’t wasted any money.

It’s a mid-winter’s afternoon here in Sydney, and the temperature is dropping. Snuggling down by the heater with a cozy mystery seems the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

The Cure – Reflections – @ The Sydney Opera House 31/5/11

There was no support act. The lights simply dimmed and the iconic figure of Robert Smith walked  to the middle of the stage. The Cure opened at The Sydney Opera House, to thunderous applause,  with  10:15 on a Saturday night.

They played their first three albums in their entirety. Starting with 3 Imaginary Boys, moving onto 17 Seconds and finishing with Faith. The crowd were in ecstasy, engulfed in the joyful, melancholic, uplifting and haunting music. Music that we never thought we would hear performed live in such a way and in such a venue.

It was a special night, and the Sydney Opera House, where there are no bad seats made it all the more so. Unlike the larger venues, the Opera House manages to achieve a sense of intimacy and connection between the audience and the band.

And then the album show was over. We expected an encore – the typical 3 song first encore, followed by 2 song sand maybe 1 additional song if we were lucky.

As the band returned to the stage, they seemed strangely energised. Robert Smith who had said very little throughout seemed, well, jaunty. He smiled and greeted the crowd warmly. And then the magic happened.

The Cure performed 3 encores, 14 songs in total – longer than any of the albums. They played B-sides and rarities, popular songs such as Boys Don’t Cry and Let’s Go to Bed, and my favourites: Charlotte Sometimes and Hanging Garden. I think it was at that point I started to cry a little.  

The performance was an epic 4 hours long, and quite possibly the best concert I will ever see in my life.

Setlist